Kusile Unit 4 has a 90% EAF – but is not operated by Eskom

Kusile Unit 4 is the power station’s best-performing unit, with an Energy Availability Factor (EAF) of 90%. However, it is operated by the original equipment manufacturer and not Eskom. 

This was revealed by the German consultancy group VGBE Energy, which the National Treasury commissioned to analyse the performance of Eskom’s coal-fired power plants and recommend how they can be improved. 

The group of German engineers with extensive experience in running coal-fired power plants spent four and a half months studying South Africa’s ailing power utility. 

They went through Eskom’s coal fleet, plant by plant, to determine what changes the utility should make to improve the performance of the individual stations. 

At Kusile, the experts found that operating department staff have not been adequately trained to operate the new technology. This technology has not been introduced at other Eskom plants. 

“The staff seems to lack incident investigation skills and are not as competent as they ideally need to be at analysing root causes or developing and implementing corrective actions,” the report read. 

The experts also noted that Eskom has delayed or deferred many of its training programmes, resulting in a workforce with adequate skills but little improvement. 

“The competencies of the technical managers are at a reasonable level, but there is greater potential for improvement,” they said.

“We repeatedly noticed that there is a high degree of theoretical knowledge. However, the complex management system makes its application very difficult.”

“In general, leadership competencies are not at the required level. Suitable leadership development programmes existed in the past, and these need to be re-established.”

Kusile Unit 4 is emblematic of these issues and presents a potential solution. It is run by the original equipment manufacturer for the boiler used in the unit. 

This unit has consistently achieved an EAF of over 90%, far above the rest of Eskom’s fleet, hovering around 51% in 2024. 

The EAF shows the percentage of time the power station was available for use when it was needed. It is a core measure of performance for any power utility.

“This team has successfully demonstrated that it is possible to achieve a high EAF in the newer plant units.”

“It is a perfect opportunity for knowledge and best practice transfer to the future O&M team of Eskom. This learning opportunity should be seized immediately,” the experts said. 

Unless Eskom succeeds in increasing the reliability of its generation fleet, South Africa should expect many more years of load-shedding.


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